Rubman’s Digestion Connection: Coffee

Your cuppa Joe May Be A Friend After All…

I’m not a coffee drinker, but I wanted to be when I was young. I remember the grown-ups drinking coffee after meals, but my mother wouldn’t let me have any because she said it would stunt my growth. How things change! Today health food stores sell coffee and the headlines are full of assorted new studies about the abundance of disease-fighting antioxidants called polyphenols (more than in green or black tea), in a cup of caffeinated black coffee.

In a chat with Daily Health News contributing editor and coffee connoisseur Andrew L. Rubman, ND, I learned that coffee is not only safe for most people to drink, it may even lower the risk of liver disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. While coffee’s caffeine and antioxidant content are what most commonly come under scrutiny, this potent brew actually contains hundreds of compounds, many of which haven’t even been identified yet. Dr. Rubman mentioned chlorogenic acid in particular, which may benefit the liver by stimulating the flow of bile and balancing blood sugar. Dr. Rubman outlined the dos and don’ts of healthful coffee consumption.

THE JOY OF JAVA

In recent years, scientists have conducted thousands of studies regarding coffee’s impact on health. Following are some of the intriguing results…

  • Coffee is good for the liver. In a study at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Oakland, California, scientists found that coffee reduced the risk of alcohol-related cirrhosis. Other research suggests that coffee supports liver health in general.
  • Coffee lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that men who drank at least six 8-ounce cups daily reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by more than 50%, and women lowered their risk by 30%. Chlorogenic acid and magnesium in coffee are believed to reduce insulin resistance, which plays an important role in diabetes. However, given the impact of six cups of caffeinated coffee (decaf doesn’t have the same benefits, since most are removed when the caffeine is taken out), further studies showing treatment effect with fewer than six cups a day will be beneficial.
  • Regular coffee consumption may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s Disease. At least half a dozen studies indicate that consistent coffee drinkers are as much as 80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s.
  • And even more benefits. Other research has linked coffee with a possible lower risk of liver, colon, breast and rectal cancers. And I read recently that caffeine may also be protective against skin cancer. Plus, caffeine may help treat asthma and headaches, which is why both Extra-Strength Excedrin and Anacin contain caffeine. And one study suggests coffee can help prevent cavities.

DR. RUBMAN SPILLS THE BEANS

Of course, everyone’s metabolism is different, and no two people react exactly the same way to coffee. Some swear by their morning cup — or two or three cups — and cannot start the day without it. For these folks, coffee may act as an energy booster, mental sharpener and mood enhancer. Some people rely on coffee to help them stay regular. Others cannot tolerate caffeine, and become shaky and anxious whenever they drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages, including tea, cola, energy drinks, etc.

Dr. Rubman offered several tips on how to get the most enjoyment and health benefits from your coffee break…

  • Make your own coffee from fresh beans. Don’t move into your local coffee bar, franchise or otherwise. According to Dr. Rubman, the more hands on you are with coffee and the more natural its state, the better it is both for your taste buds and health. His advice: Buy fresh beans, keep them in an airtight bag in the freezer, invest in a grinder and brew your own coffee. One of his favorite on-line resources is thewholebean.com.
  • Drink it black. Stirring in cream and sugar may negate some of the health benefits. As for chemical-laden artificial sweeteners or non-dairy creamers laced with high-fructose corn sweetener… don’t even think about it, as the negative effect on health of these fake foods is worth its own column. Good coffee is naturally sweet and satisfying to taste… though not everyone agrees with Dr. Rubman’s opinion on that.
  • Moderation is key. Use common sense to determine the level of coffee consumption right for you. Keep in mind that caffeine is a powerful stimulant. Too many cups of coffee can increase heart rate and blood pressure and cause sleep disturbances. Caffeine is also a potentially addictive drug, and rapid coffee withdrawal can lead to headaches, nausea and irritability.
  • If coffee makes you jittery, don’t drink it. In Dr. Rubman’s experience, even coffee lovers sometimes find the beverage too stimulating during stressful periods. When this happens, cut back, at least temporarily. Once your world calms down, you’ll be able to indulge in that second or third cup without negative repercussions. Or you could dilute caffeinated coffee with spring water.
  • Decaf doesn’t do it. As mentioned above, only the "full octane" coffee has been shown to have these benefits. The chemical processing required to decaffeinate coffee also destroys its health benefits.

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE

Children, pregnant women and those with high blood pressure are generally advised to steer clear of coffee. As for the rest of us, coffee has a downside as well as all those benefits. Since I do get jittery from coffee, I’m not planning to pick up the habit and Dr. Rubman would be last to suggest I should. But for the many coffee lovers out there, it’s good news that this popular beverage once maligned as a vice can now be looked upon — well, almost — as a virtue.

Source(s): Andrew L. Rubman, ND, director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut.

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About Ask Marion

I am a babyboomer and empty nester who savors every moment of my past and believes that it is the responsibility of each of us in my generation and Americans in general to make sure that America is as good or even a better place for future generations as it was for us. So far... we haven't done very well!! Favorite Quotes: "The first 50 years are to build and acquire; the second 50 are to leave your legacy"; "Do something that scares you every day!"; "The journey in between what you once were and who you are becoming is where the dance of life really takes place".
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